Thoughts and Words; Symbols and Meanings

Your Thoughts and Your Reality

Is there an objective reality? Probably. Can we know what it is? Probably not. Does that mean nothing matters? Certainly not. Whether “your whole world you see around you is just a reflection” or what you see is what you get; whether we live in “The Matrix” or a reality of our own creation, it matters to you and me and to each of us everywhere and everywhen. It matters because finding and/or creating meaning is hard-wired into the core of our being. It is a function of being human … probably a function of being self-aware regardless of species.

If you ask someone (like yourself), “How do you experience your environment?”, you might get answers like:

  • I see with my eyes.
  • I hear with my ears.
  • I smell with my nose.
  • I taste with my tongue.
  • I touch with my hands.

None of that is true. We see, hear, smell, taste, and touch with our brains. Our eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and hands have sensory nerve endings that transmit signals to our brains. Our brains interpret those signals into what we believe to be “objective reality”, but … our brains can be fooled … sometimes very easily.

All is Vanity

Ambiguous images and optical illusions are the most obvious examples of our brains misinterpreting the signals they’re receiving from neural signals.

Look at the illustration at the right.[1] What do you see? At first glance, most people see a human skull (or, at least, the skull of a primate). On closer inspection, we see a woman who is sitting at a dressing table and looking at her image in a mirror.

Our other senses can be fooled too. The chemical senses, taste and smell, work together to produce what we call flavor. Touch and hearing interact to modify our perception of texture. Some people experience synesthesia wherein stimulating one sense produces an involuntary response in another.[2]

Some symbols transcend national boundaries and languages. The meaning of the traffic symbol on the left[3] is recognized in 74 countries. Another 4 countries use the octagonal shape in a different color to mean the same thing.

Even if you are totally color blind, you can probably understand what the traffic symbol on the right is telling you.[4]

We are surrounded by symbols. The meaning of those symbols and our very perception of them is a function of our consciousness. Everything that we consider to be “real” is inside our heads.[5]

When we confuse a symbol with what that symbol represents, we are on a path that can easily lead to muddled thinking and potentially dangerous action. Consider the Flag of the United States of America. It symbolizes the United States, but it is not the United States. One could define the United States as a lot of things … its ideals, partially expressed in the Constitution and body of laws, its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people, even the parts of the planet that define its borders. It is certainly much more than a colorful piece of cloth waving in the breeze.

Some believe … or, more likely, want you and I to believe that that the flag is the country. Some of these misguided individuals act is if wrapping themselves in the flag makes them patriots. Some pretend that hugging the flag proves that they love the country. Neither is true. Their association with the symbol is a function of ignorance, deception, or both.

The Most Dangerous Symbols

Words are symbols too. They are our most powerful … and most dangerous … symbols. Words are powerful because they can express intangibles and concepts. When someone tells you, “This is alive, but that is not alive”, you have an idea about what that person means … but, try to explain the difference. In the Star Trek: the Next Generation episode “The Quality of Life“, the android officer, Lt. Commander Data asks Dr. Beverly Crusher that question:

Star Trek: The Next Generation — “The Quality of Life” ….. [ 2:09 ]

Words can introduce confusion because they often have different meanings to different people and in different contexts. Consider the word SET. A nice, common, three-letter English word. It shouldn’t cause any confusion, right? Well … not exactly. There are at least 41 different meanings for the word SET … 14 as a transitive verb, 9 as an intransitive verb, 6 as an adjective, 11 as a common noun, and 1 as a proper noun.

Let’s look at some more words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Do those words sound familiar? If they do, let me congratulate you and your teacher … whoever or whatever that teacher may be. These words are, of course, the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of America. The most often overlooked words of the amendment are “Congress shall make no law”.[6]

In the United States, your spiritual beliefs are your business. The government may not require you to practice any particular religion or, for that matter, any religion at all. If any segment of the government seeks to define the country by a set of “religious” beliefs, we are put on the path to theocracy.

Similarly, the government is not permitted to censor the Press. The Founding Fathers considered a free press to be one of the main institutions that “kept the government honest” by creating a level of transparency that lets the public know what the government is doing. The Press is not “the enemy of the people”. When it is doing its job, a free, unfettered, and … to the extent that it is possible … unbiased press makes sure that we know what our leaders are doing.[7]

The Constitution guarantees the right peaceably to assemble. “Peaceably to assemble” is a rather awkward word construct in modern American English. Most of us are more likely to say “to assemble peaceably” or, even more likely, “to assemble peacefully”. I wondered if/how peacefully and peaceably differ in meaning. I learned that there is, in fact, a difference:

Peacefully denotes mental status, while peaceably (legally) denotes enjoyment of a thing without any external interruption.

I find this defined distinction disconcerting. It leads me to infer that the First Amendment says that the government and its agencies may not intervene in any assembly whether it is peaceful or not. From the parenthetical “(legally)”, I infer that the distinction is a more modern invention used in courts, but not in common usage. Indeed, provides this definition:

Peaceable and peaceful are usually used interchangeably, but their conventional definitions differ slightly. Peaceable, meaning inclined to peace, is more likely to describe people and groups of people, whereas peaceful, meaning undisturbed by turmoil or disagreement, is more likely to apply to events and situations. But these distinctions are treated loosely and are not consistently borne out in real-world use.

I like this definition. A peaceable assembly is preferable to one that is not peaceable.

A peaceable assembly, like the one on the left, quietly uses its numbers to show that a majority of the People support their view.

The alternative, like the one pictured on the right, uses emotionality and violence to express the opinion of the “assembled” whether or not that opinion is shared by the majority.

Groups of people often assemble in order to redress their grievances. but the freedom to petition the Government for the redress of grievances is a right unto itself. When you call or write to your Representative or Senator for help or to complain, you are redressing your grievances all by yourself.

Movements and Intentions; Words and Communication

The first ten amendments to the Constitution are called The Bill of Rights.[8] The First Amendment guarantees the most basic freedoms … freedom of Religion, freedom of Speech, freedom of the Press, freedom to Assemble, and freedom to Redress Grievances.

These Five Freedoms are our birthright as citizens of the United States of America. They are granted to us under the Constitution and the laws derived from that covenant. Without the rule of law, there can be no Freedom; only Chaos. To paraphrase Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben:

With great Freedom, there must also come … great Responsibility.

Do we deserve our Freedom? Can we keep it? Are we living up to our collective responsibility? Let’s take a closer look.

Freedom of Religion

What do we mean when we speak of this freedom? What is religion? Merriam-Webster defines religion as:

  1. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  2. A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

This is a reasonable definition … except for its circularity. Using the word “religious” in the definition of “religion” is like defining tall as “that which has the attribute of tallness”. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m revising definition #1 to read:

  1. A personal set or institutionalized system of spiritual and moral attitudes, beliefs, and practices

Some will cry in dismay, “What about God?” Contrary to the somewhat arrogant position of many who identify with one of the Abrahamic religions, “God” is not personified in all religions. Hindu[9] represents such a diverse set of beliefs and philosophies that it has been described as pantheistic, monotheistic, and henotheistic … sometimes all within the same description. Buddhism is focused on freedom achieved though spiritual growth. It is typically considered to be non-theistic. In some cases … where Buddhism is mixed with local folk traditions, gods may be acknowledged or, at least, tolerated, but they are not considered to be immortal, omniscient, nor all-powerful … and, they are not intended to be worshiped. In its most general sense, Religion does not require God.[10] Unless it’s just an excuse for amorality and licentious behavior, even Atheism can be considered to be a religion.[11]

Whatever your religious/spiritual/moral beliefs, the Constitution forbids the government from passing any laws forbidding your freedom to follow those beliefs … provided doing so does no harm to others.[12] It does not allow you to force your beliefs on someone else.

Freedom of Speech

The first amendment gives each of us the right to say whatever we choose, yet most of us have heard that it doesn’t give us the freedom to “shout fire in a crowded theater“. This is derived from a Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s opinion in Schenck v. United States.

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic… The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

Freedom of Speech is regularly used as a defense in libel cases. This makes proving such cases difficult. Well-known, powerful people claiming to be victims seldom win. When those same people are the defendant and their accuser is an average person, they are more likely to be lose. There’s that “Great Power/Great Responsibility” thing again. One who has great access to the media can utterly destroy the life of an ordinary person. They have an implied responsibility to avoid doing so. Juries … and even Judges … are, after all, only human.

Freedom of the Press

The term “enemy of the people” is used by authoritarian leaders to refer to those who oppose them. By implication, the phrase merges the leaders and the ordinary citizens into a single group. The citizens who accept this merger as true are easily convinced that anyone who opposes the leaders must also oppose ordinary citizens.

Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong used “enemy of the people” to refer to anyone who opposed their respective agendas. The leaders of Nazi Germany applied it to all Jewish people. In February 2017, Donald Trump “tweeted” that The New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN[13] were “fake news” and, therefore, “enemies of the American People”.

Freedom of the Press is similar to Freedom of Speech in many respects. The written word is, after all, a less ephemeral version of the spoken word. Because it is more permanent, usually more wide-spread, and a business rather than an individual, the laws governing what the Press says or writes “on the record” are more restrictive. If you or I defame someone by word of mouth, one-at-a-time, we are not likely to be held to account legally. If we say the same thing in a public … and probably recorded … speech, it is easier to prove. We are more likely to fall under public scrutiny and, perhaps, legal complications. If we were to publish the same thing in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or some other serious publication, both we and the publication might be in trouble. The Internet is, at best, somewhere in between and, at worst, the Wild West.

Freedom to Peaceably Assemble
Freedom to Redress Grievances

The right of the people peaceably to assemble and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances are separate freedoms … but, we most often hear about them when they occur together.

We assemble for many reasons … sporting events, concerts, religious services, rallies, meetings, etc. As long as these gatherings remain non-violent, they are protected by the First Amendment. If, at any moment, those involved in these gatherings resort to violence, that protection dissolves.

There are low-key and/or individual ways that we can petition the Government. We can contact our Legislators and Administrators at all levels of government. We can circulate an actual petition. We can vote. This too is protected by the First Amendment.

When peaceable assembly and petitioning the Government combine we call it a march, a rally, a protest, a strike, etc. If the assembly and petitioning turn to violence, property damage, a threat to public safety, etc., we call it a riot or, in the most extreme cases, an insurrection. The former is legal, the latter is not.

Symbols that Help; Symbols that Hurt

Socio-political movements usually have slogans … a word or short phrase that that serves as a rallying cry and verbal membership card for members of the movement. Slogans are symbols. A well-formed slogan will portray the intent of the movement not only to members, but to the rest of society as well. A poorly-formed slogan will confuse the general public and, perhaps, imply an anti-social motive.

Similarly, enemies of a movement may create negative names and slogans for the movement with the intent of casting a bad light on the movement and its members. Politicians and political consultants are masters of the craft.

One of the most widely-known examples of attempted negative sloganeering is the name “Obamacare“. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was moving from bill to law, its opponents started calling it Obamacare in the hopes that linking it to the President would stir opposition among their constituents. When the President and other supporters of the law adopted the term as well, the nickname supplanted the law’s original name in the public consciousness.

In 2017, a Republican-controlled House and Senate tried to pass the “American Health are Act of 2017“. The bill would have eliminated the individual and employer mandates that makes the Affordable Care Act possible.[14] At that time, a New York Times poll showed that 17% of respondents to the poll said they believed the ACA and Obamacare were different things. An additional 18% weren’t sure.[15]

Words, Phrases, and Hashtags

Through all of human history, words and phrases have been used as symbols to bind like-minded people and to separate opposing groups. Symbols, in general, are a sort of shorthand for ideas. As such, they can be both cohesive and divisive. They can be misunderstood, abused, and subverted.

The most obvious example of symbol usurpation and subversion is the Swastika. Long used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Eurasian, African, and Indigenous American religions, Hitler’s National Socialist Party (NAZI) and today’s neo-Nazis have turned it into one of white supremacy and oppression.

As we have become inundated with, attracted by, and addicted to electronic social media, similar words, phrases, and their derivative hashtags have proliferated. Verbal symbols … once used by tens of thousands … have become familiar to tens of millions. Let’s look at some of the more prominent … and usually controversial … verbal symbols used in the United States and many other parts of the world.


The phrase “Me Too” was used on social media for the first time in 2006. It burst into prominence and hashtag status after many women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual-abuse in October of 2017. #MeToo became a social media rallying cry for women … and, in a short time, some men … who had been victims of sexual-abuse. Occasionally, someone would try to subvert its meaning and turn it against the movement it represented, but none of those efforts caught on. #MeToo remained an effective symbol for the people and movement it was intended to represent..

Black Lives Matter

As a symbol, “Black Lives Matter” (aka BLM) is slightly less effective than #MeToo. Whether rightwing leaders want to believe it or not, our social and legal systems has a pervasive undercurrent of racial discrimination, inequality, and exploitation.[16] While these biases are directed toward anyone who is not white, Christian, straight, and male, the largest portion of it is directed toward black people. The movement started and gained proponents … from all races, genders, ages, ethnicities, etc. … after the high-profile killings of Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Pamela Turner. It exploded into national and international awareness after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of the police.

These people were given a death sentence for such heinous crimes as:

  • Making too much noise while partying in a public park and arguing with an off-duty policeman who did not identify himself;

  • Walking home from a local convenience store and being harassed by a suspicious member of the community watch;

  • Robbing a convenience store;

  • Being suspected of selling single cigarettes from a pack without a tax stamp;

  • Being a 12 year-old playing with a toy gun;

  • Using a policeman’s taser against him while he was attempting to arrest her on outstanding warrants;

  • Being at home with your boyfriend when plain-clothes police officers broke into her home (possibly unannounced) on a no-knock warrant obtained based on questionably accurate information; and,

  • Being suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

If these are capital offenses, we’re all in trouble … especially if police officers and community watch members are permitted to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Is it really so surprising that many people believe that our cultural norms and our laws imply that black lives don’t matter? Is it surprising that the response, “All lives matter,” seems disingenuous to people who are so often treated as second-class citizens? Respect for each other’s humanity and equal treatment under the law are not scarce resources. One doesn’t gain respect by withholding it from others. Until we all get equal treatment under the law, there is no real law. Saying, “Black Lives Matter Too,” is redundant.

Defund the Police!

“Defund the Police” resulted from a number of incidents in which the police were called to help a person in trouble … medically, emotionally, etc. … but ended in the subject being treated like a criminal. The phrase sounds like an obvious call to lawlessness. Those who screamed the words while shaking their fists in the air may have meant them literally and absolutely, but most didn’t. “Defund the Police” introduces as much confusion and disagreement as the problem it attempts to describe, but …

Use some of the funding now directed to the police to add support professionals with skills more suited to helping people with problems that are focused on the “Serve” part of “Protect and Serve” so that the police can concentrate on the “Protect” part

… is lot to put on a placard or to chant … and, it’s definitely too long to become a “hashtag”.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

Both symbolic terms in the abortion debate have problems. Pro-Life … originally called “Right-to-Life” … is Anti-Abortion for everyone, but Pro-Choice is not Pro-Abortion for everyone. On the subject of abortion, Pro-Life is Anti-Choice, but Pro-Choice is definitely not Anti-Life[17] in the same context … or any other context.

Because many people make choices based more on emotion than thought, the term Pro-Choice sounds like most women are getting abortions on a whim.[18] The cases in which abortion is treated as a form of birth control are the exception rather than the rule. More often making the decision to have an abortion comes at the end of a lot of heart-wrenching consideration, soul-searching, and discussion between the woman and her partner … and/or her physician … and/or her parents … and/or religious leaders[19] … and/or her other trusted advisors.

The Debate over Abortion

As with many symbols used by social debates/movements, both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice oversimplify a complex question. At the core of the question is a debate over when personhood begins. Those in the Pro-Life position believe personhood begins at conception (the zygote) or shortly thereafter (the embryo). The recently overturned Roe v. Wade decision defined personhood as the point of fetal viability (23 or 24 weeks). Nobody questions the personhood after a baby is born … at least, not overtly.[20]

Why stop with the zygote? What about the sperm and the egg (the gametes)? Don’t they have the potential for personhood too? Without them, the zygote cannot exist. Perhaps Pro-Life legislators should consider opposing the wanton destruction of gametes. Let’s see. How would that apply?

Only those true misogynists who espouse the Pro-Life position as a cover for their desire to subjugate women and destroy their health would consider mensuration to be “wanton destruction”. It’s an involuntary response in the natural reproductive system. Male nocturnal emissions in either gender would be exempt for the same reason. It’s an involuntary response. Masturbation is voluntary … and, in the case of the male, it kills gametes.[21]

Maybe female federal and state legislators should introduce bills that make the wanton destruction of human gametes a crime equivalent to abortion.

Therein lies the problem. The majority of those who are pushing and passing barbarously restrictive and ignorantly generalized laws affecting women’s health decisions are men … most of whom have no understanding of female biology. As of September 30, 2022, women account for only 29% of the U.S. House of Representatives. Only 24% of the members of the U.S. Senate are women. Additionally, only 30% of the House and 12% of the Senate are non-white. The average age of members of the House and Senate are 58.4 and 64.3 years respectively. Only two members of Congress are gynecologists … one in the House and one in the Senate. Both are men … both are Republicans … both oppose the healthcare freedom that women had under Roe v. Wade.

Those who have the Constitutional authority to pass laws … those who could make the protections of Roe v. Wade the Law of the Land … are a bunch of late middle-aged to old, white men … few of whom have any medical or scientific backgrounds.

Fact Check

Declaring sperm and eggs to be persons just to put some of the burden on men and to “own the GOP” is, of course, ridiculous. Declaring fertilized eggs to be persons is not significantly different. About 73% of all fertilized eggs die within 6 weeks. (It takes roughly 8 weeks for the zygote to become an embryo.) Of those that survive beyond 6 weeks, another 2-3% of the original zygotes will not live to term. To put it more simply, only about 25% of all fertilized eggs live long enough to become babies.[22] Those that survive long enough to become fetuses will not develop long enough to be able to live outside the womb until 23-24 weeks after conception. A lot can go wrong in 6 months.

Some new and reactivated abortion laws forbid all abortions for any reason. These lawgivers talk about the “sanctity of life”. If their actions match their words, they must also favor providing state-mandated medical care throughout the pregnancies they require, providing protection and loving homes to the unwanted infants born from those forced pregnancies, giving emotional and psychological support to the women (and children) who became pregnant as the victims of rape/incest, and oppose the death penalty. To do less is hypocrisy or, at the very least, thoughtlessness and intentional ignorance. The primary focus of their lawmaking is not life. It is power … power over women in general, power over those who cannot afford to go where abortions are legal, power over anyone whose opinions deviate from their own and their perceived constituents … and they won’t stop with abortion.[23]

Even those who truly believe in the sanctity of life … including all the protection for “life after birth” listed above …, run into trouble. If abortion is absolutely forbidden, what do you do when the life of the potential mother is at stake? What do you do when you know that the baby cannot survive and may spend it’s minutes to few hours of life suffering?

What do you get when state laws passed by those who are unable or unwilling to define specific boundaries around their intrusion into privacy? What do you get when new and resurrected laws are so unclear that medical professionals feel forced to refuse care that is not abortion, but may look like abortion to the lawgivers and law keepers?

  • You get women … and/or doctor and pharmacist providers … harassed or even arrested by those who think the “morning after” contraception pill kills a fetus rather than simply preventing ovulation. (They haven’t outlawed contraception … yet.)

  • You get a 10 year-old rape victim in Ohio being forced to travel to Indiana in order to get an abortion … while some in the conservative news media claim that the victim, the rape, and the pregnancy are fictions invented by the liberals. (They stopped saying that after the rapist was caught and indicted. I don’t know whether any of those media people or their organizations apologized.)

  • You get a Texas woman being forced to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because the law made no distinction between abortion and the removal of fetal remains following miscarriage.

  • You get pharmacists who are afraid to fill prescriptions for Methotrexate, the FDA-approved treatment for inflamed joints and immobility, that are written for women suffering from inflammatory arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and similar conditions. Because it can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and is used by gynecologists to treat ectopic pregnancies, some states consider Methotrexate to be an abortion drug. Considering a drug’s possible side-effects as its main purpose is like saying that the respective purposes of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are to produce internal bleeding, erode the stomach lining, and destroy the liver … rather than to alleviate a headache.

  • You get a U.S. maternal death rate that is double that of the second highest rate when compared to 10 other developed countries. Freedom of choice on the subject of abortion would not save all these mothers, but access to available and accessible pre-natal care would save a lot of them. Organizations like Planned Parenthood provide such care, but they are often forced to shut down because they support freedom of choice regarding abortion.

Abortion is not an easy choice. As a man, I never had to face that choice. I suspect that it’s much more difficult than I can imagine. Ultimately, the choice must remain with the pregnant woman … with support from her doctor, her family, and anyone else she wants to consult. It is none of the government’s business.

What is the government’s business is protecting every woman’s freedom of choice. Decreeing that someone else’s opinion about fetal personhood is invalid … and making it illegal … is imposing your religious beliefs on another. That violates the First Amendment. Choosing a potential person over an existing one is slavery. The 14th Amendment opposes that. The decision on Roe v. Wade protected freedom of choice and set a limit at fetal liability.[24] If the Democrats control the House of Representatives and have a sufficient number in the Senate to get around the filibuster, the protections of the Roe v. Wade decision can become law. It’s harder to convince the Supreme Court to declare a law to be unconstitutional than to overturn it’s earlier decisions. To say, “we were wrong” is a lot easier than to declare that the duly-elected representatives of “The People” are wrong.

Your Vote CAN Make a Difference

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 is election day. When you vote, remember the women in your life … your wives, your sisters, your daughters, your nieces, your granddaughters, your friends. Midterm elections are just as important as Presidential elections. All of the seats in the House of Representatives, a third of the seats in the Senate, many positions in state and local government, and lots of referenda questions will be decided.

No matter what you believe, no matter what it takes, make your choice known. Do not be swayed by sound bites and brief advertisements. Learn all that you can about the candidates’ positions. Think about the ballot questions. Do not default to party loyalties[25] unless you actually agree with the candidates and questions. Your vote is the expression your opinion regarding the direction of our government at every level and in every context.

Your Vote Matters. Use it.

End Notes

The illustration is the 1892 work of C. Allan Gilbert, a well-known illustrator of the late 19th and early 20th Century. In addition to being visually ambiguous, it has an ambiguous title … the pun, “All is Vanity”.

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Synesthesia can be helpful. I had a friend in college who used sound/color synesthesia to advantage when playing his clarinet. Different notes had different colors. More importantly, he had trained himself to have this ability. Research supports our ability to develop synesthetic connections.

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If you didn’t recognize the symbol is a STOP sign, you must live in one of the countries that use a different symbol like a triangle … or, you don’t use private ground transportation, … or, I want to know where you drive so that I can avoid you.

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That’s right. The order of the lights from top to bottom is always red, yellow, and green. According to the light, it’s your turn to proceed.

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Well … unless you believe yourself to be nothing more than a biological machine that is born, lives for a while, then dies and is no more, our reality is based in a non-physical “something” you call your consciousness, soul, essence, spirit, etc., etc., etc.

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With even a cursory look at the Constitution, it is fairly obvious that the Framers intended Congress to be responsible for the lion’s share of their new government’s work and authority. Article I defines the Legislative branch (the two chambers of Congress) and contains 51.83% of the document’s total text. The Executive branch (the Administration) is described in Article II. Its 23.16% of the text is less than half that of Article I. The Judicial branch (the Courts) is given only 8.66% in Article III. The Congress is clearly the first among equals. The remaining 16.35% is distributed across the Preamble and Articles IV,V, VI, and VII.

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When I speak of “the Press”, I mean all of the Press. If you get all of your information from a single source … your favorite cable news network, the Internet, Social Media, a few magazines, gossip at the general store or around the water cooler …, you are not getting the whole story. Every news source has at least a tiny bit of intentional or unintentional bias.

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The Founding Fathers were divided by two opposing political philosophies. The Federalists believed that the main focus of power should lie with the central government. The Anti-Federalists were suspicious of a central government with too much authority. The Bill of Rights was part of the compromise that resolved the disagreement. Specifically, the first ten amendments to the Constitution spell out what the central government may not do … the “unalienable rights” retained by each of the country’s citizens.

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The term “Hindu” was first used by the Greeks and the Persians to refer to people who lived beyond the Indus/Sindhu River. The beliefs that are common among Hindus include the concepts that:

  • The Divine (Brahman) is/are always present … in varying form(s).
  • It takes many lifetimes to achieve self-realization.
  • Actions in one lifetime affects the soul’s journey in the next.

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It is possible that God needs Religion to maintain His/Her/Its existence.

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Agnosticism is probably outside the realm of Religion. It simply says “I don’t know anything about it nor do I have any opinion.” Agnosticism is simply the antonym of Gnosticism … those (primarily Judeo-Christian) traditions that claim to have special knowledge hidden from their more mainline counterparts.

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Obviously, human sacrifice is not permitted. To the best of my knowledge, the religions that once permitted/encouraged that sort of thing have either changed their ways or their adherents have managed to kill each other. Personally, I discourage sacrificing any living thing. If you feel a need to offer sacrifice, help someone in need or donate money to your favorite charity.

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I wonder how Fox escaped. Oh, that’s right, for most of 4 years, almost all of their news hosts were valuable participants in the “Trumpist (aka MAGA-Republican) Propaganda Machine”. Some of them still are.

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The ACA depends upon the insurance savings achieved by scale in group policies. Those who have participated in such policies through their employer will be familiar with this sort of coverage. As a result of the economies of scale, the larger the group; the lower the cost per individual.

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At a time when the Republican’s in Congress were trying to repeal “The Affordable Care Act”, Jimmy Kimmel’s team ran a “person on the street” experiment that says it all.

[ 4:01 ]

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Racism is just one of the more obvious of the insidious prejudices woven into U.S. (and, indeed, World) culture. Misogyny, Homophobia, Xenophobia, and Religious Discrimination are major players too.

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The only Anti-Life I’ve ever heard of is the Anti-Life Equation sought by the DC Comics character Darkseid. That equation is Anti-Choice. Whoever possesses the equation has complete control over all living things everywhere.

On the other side of the coin, to the best of my knowledge, inside the closed ecosystem we call Earth, only the Phytoplankton can be completely Pro-Life. They get 100% of what they need to live directly from sunlight. Every other living thing on the planet gets at least a tiny bit of its sustenance from the death of some other lifeform. (The food chain has to start somewhere.)

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Although we’re barely aware of it, we make dozens if not hundreds of small decisions each day. If we stopped to consciously consider those decisions, we’d find ourselves in a state of paralysis by analysis. Instead, we resort to deciding based in past experience, instinct, and what “feels right” at the time. Most of us are so wrapped up in our own “stuff” that we fall into the trap of believing that all decisions are made on “auto-pilot”. Unless we have faced an abortion (or similarly life-changing) decision, the answer to the question, “Why would anyone make THAT decision?” is the same as the answer to “What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

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Remember, the First Amendment to the Constitution specifies that one’s religious beliefs are none of the governments business. Too many Pro-Lifers seem to believe that their religious beliefs must apply to everyone. In trying to win the votes of those people, too many politicians agree with them … or, at least, pretend to agree with them. Each of us is free to believe that our spiritual beliefs are the correct ones, We are allowed to try to win others over to our beliefs. We are not allowed to use the law to force our beliefs on others.

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There seems to be a fairly sizeable number of people who, based on what they say about and do to others, believe that those who differ from them … in skin color, geographic origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual preferences, wealth, and/or any number of other artificial discriminators … are less than human.

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Those poor little gametes share the same “innocence” that the Pro-Lifers are so fond of attributing to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. Many of these same people believe in infant baptism to cleanse the baby of “original sin“. Is the fetus free of original sin? Does the sin sneak in during the birthing process?

As Gloria Steinem has said many times over the years, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

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All life on Earth is fortunate that the survival of human zygotes is so low. At the time I write this end note, there are an estimated 7,981,324,373 people living on the planet. If all fertilized eggs survived to become babies, there would be 31,925,297,492 of us. Genesis 1:28 says, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it, …”. Even at a 25% survival rate, we’ve already “subdued” the hell out of our planet.

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In his concurring opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas put out a clear call for cases opposing birth control, same sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights in general.

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Fetal viability is generally considered to be 23 or 24 months. That’s 6 months. It seems very unlikely that any woman would choose to carry her potential baby for 6 months, then decide to abort it on a whim. By that time, almost every woman would probably rather die herself than to abort what she has come to regard as “my baby”.

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More people are registered as independents than are registered under either major party. Going with your party’s candidate even though you disagree with just him or her is stupid. We have you outnumbered. You may as well vote your preferences.

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